Will the supply of “compliant” shell eggs, liquid eggs, veal meat, and pork be enough after today to meet California consumer demand? Or is the Golden State looking at a severe bacon shortage and price increases for these food staples.

Today Proposition 12, passed by voters on Nov. 6, 2018, takes full force as the new animal confinement law that producers must follow in and out of state to access the California market.

A recent 147-page review by the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) predicts:

  • California consumers will be affected by higher food prices and respond with lower quantities consumed.
  • In the 2022 calendar year, when the Act’s standards go into full effect, proposed regulations will increase consumer expenditures in California by $1.1 billion.
  • The most significant impacts are on consumers of shell eggs and whole pork meat due to the increased cost of these covered products at wholesale and retail.

Prop 12 amended the California Health and Safety Code (HSC) to require egg-laying hens, veal calves, and breeding pigs to be kept in housing systems that meet specific standards to allow movement, enclosure design, and minimum floor space.

Further, the law prohibits a business owner or operator from knowingly engaging in sales within California of shell eggs, liquid eggs, whole veal, or pork meat from animals housed in a non-compliant manner. California successfully defended that provision against numerous challenges in the federal courts.

Warnings have since gone out to anyone who operates a restaurant or is a vendor for prepared food. Their responsibility from this day forward is to purchase only Prop 12 compliant shell eggs, liquid eggs, veal meat, and pork for use in their establishments.

According to CDFA, there are 6,546 egg farms in the state and 1,236 pork producers. California does not produce any veal.  In California, purchasing eggs and pork are about 76,200 restaurants, 20,000 grocery stores, and 450 food processing facilities.

The animal confinement space allowances under Prop 12 call for cage-free for egg-laying hens, 43 square feet for veal calves, and 24 square feet for breeding pigs)

That recent CDFA report says Prop 12 housing requirements “are not based in specific peer-reviewed published scientific literature or accepted as standards within the scientific community to reduce human food-borne illness, promote worker safety, the environment, or other human or safety concerns. Health and Safety Code confinement standards are described as a minimum standard. These allowances to prevent cruel confinement of covered animals and the law was not primarily written with the concern or benefit of human food-borne illness, worker safety, environment, etc.”

Egg prices are likely to be an issue in California, but supply should not be a significant problem. Regarding bacon and other pork products, shortages are not out of the question.

Rabobank, the food and agriculture financial services company, reports that California consumes 255 million pounds of pork a month but on its own, the state itself only produces 45 million pounds of pork.  And Rabobank’s estimates are that only four percent of pork producers in the state are compliant with the Prop 12 standards.   A 60 percent increase in price is predicted to follow the collapse of supply.

According to David Earheart, senior director of communications and brank markets, Seaboard Foods will no longer sell certain whole pork products into California.

Ten days from today’s compliance deadline, Hormel Foods was looking for “clarity on specific issues and rules” but preparing to “fully comply.”

The North American Meat Institue (NAMI) says Prop 12 remains a flawed measure that’s going to take more time to work out compliance.  NAMI says California is not recognizing the “complexity of the pork supply chain.”

CDFA is allowing pork distributors to”self-certify” until Jan.1, 2024.   NAMI sought a 28-month preparation time for everyone in the supply chain.

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